Prefecture of Evros: Culture
The first traces of habitation in the prefecture of Evros date back to the Neolithic period, testified by the archaeological finds in the Cyclops Cave at Makri. The area was developed after the 7th cent. BC when colonies were founded on the coast line. Mesebria was the most important colony. During the Persian Wars Evros was conquered by the Persians but it was liberated by the Athenians. Then, the period of Alexander's and his successors' reign followed and in 168 BC the region came under the Roman authority. Due to the geographical position of the area on Via Egnatia, it prospered politically and culturally. In the Byzantine period the area is a religious centre reaching the monastic community of Mt Papikios. The continuous piratical raids, particularly by the Bulgarians, deteriorated the region from the beginning of the 13th cent. until the 14th cent. The Ottomans captured the region in 1361 and a period of prosperity followed due to the production and processing of silk at Soufli.
Alexandroupolis is one of the most recently founded Greek cities. It was founded by the Turks in 1876 as a trade post to serve the commercial route to Adrianoupolis and the two cities were connected by railway. Alexandroupolis was named Dedeagats after a Turkish dervish who was buried there. The town was built according to the urban planning designed by Russian civil engineers in 1877 during the Russian-Turkish War. The Treaty of Sevres affirmed that Evros and the rest of Thrace would cede to Greece. The modern name was given to honour Alexander, king at the time, who had visited the city after liberation.
The island of Samothrace was renowned in antiquity for the Cabeirian mysteries, chthonic rituals in the sanctuary of the Great Gods. The famous statue of the Nike of Samothrace was discovered on this site in 1863 and it was taken to the Louvre Museum, where it is exhibited up to date. During the Ottoman occupation the inhabitants rebelled and thousands of them were slaughtered. The island was liberated in 1913.
The traditions and customs of the area are quite distinctive: the 'Kourta', that is animal shearing, in Samothrace in May and June, accompanied with celebrations, offering of meat and rice, the 'Tsitsi', in the Municipality of Tychero, which is related with the appearance of goblins, the custom of 'Cortopoula' in Phylakto. In the villages of Rizia, Pentalofo and Kastanies the custom of 'Bey' takes place annually, in the beginning of March.
The annual youth Ardas festival is organized at the banks of river Ardas in the summer with many concerts by eminent artists. In Alexandroupolis, the Nautical Week is celebrated every two years (late June - early July), including swimming and sailing races, fishing and the Venetian night. Cultural events are organized from the 15th of July to the end of August, such as concerts, theatrical performances, events for children and wine feast. The 'Elephteria' are celebrated in the first ten days of May to commemorate the liberation of the city from the Turks. Cultural celebrations for the liberation take place in Didymoteicho as well, on the 24-26 of May. In Soufli, the Cultural Summer in August comprises concerts, performances and film shows.
The Museum of Ecclesiastical Art in Alexandroupolis is housed in the spiritual center of the Metropolis and apart from the exhibitions, it has developed noteworthy educational programmes adopting new technologies. In the Ethnological and Folklore Museum the thematic sections develop chronologically, spanning from late 18th century until the beginning of the 20th century and deal with costumes, cult, pre-industrial nutrition - confectionary, traditional agriculture, sesame mill and dye-house, while lectures, educational programmes and performances are organized as well.
In the Geo-Park and the Fossilised Forest in Phylakto, there is an exhibition of the geological history of the area, including fossilised trees, fossilised sea shells, shark teeth, corals, fossilized leaves and pollen.